The older I get, the more I realize how many things I will never be good at: skateboarding, fishing, walking in heels, not getting lost, political discussions, astronomy, fixing a car, drinking whiskey, avoiding chocolate, lying, and dancing hip-hop are just a few. Another major area of weakness for me is MUSIC. Sure, I can listen to music, but when it comes to understanding chords, changes in tone, pitch levels, creating harmonies, or singing in key, I have virtually zero talent. That is why getting the chance to interview Diandian Wu, piano extraordinaire, is enlightening and unchartered territory for a musically challenged individual like myself.
Diandian grew up in Beijing, China where he was raised by an artistic family. Unlike many of us who search for years to find our talents, Diandian’s talent in piano was impossible to ignore. His piano teacher, Ms. Zhengmin Luo, was the first to recognize and support Diandian’s progression as a musician. “Ms. Luo taught me how to become a better pianist by solving all of my problems patiently,” explains Diandian. “She showed me how it is not technique or hard work that will make me a great musician, but a sincere love of people and art. If you have a heart full of love for others, whatever you aspire to be-musician, performer, dancer, composer, painter, etc. - you WILL create beautiful works that move people.”
His mother was also a great influence on his musical journey as she was an unfailing beacon of support and love. Diandian’s mother is disabled and virtually blind, yet she did not make any excuse or spare any effort in being his number one fan. “My mom taught me that, if you want to achieve success, you must overcome every difficulty bravely and with persistence.” Through the help of these strong women, Diandian dedicated his focus on distinguishing himself as an extraordinary artist.
Although most known for his excellence at piano, Diandian is also inherently drawn towards other art forms as well. Diandian recently graduated from Columbia University in New York with a Master’s degree in Chinese Literature and Art. “I love music, but I also enjoy other forms of art as well. When I am playing music, composing a song, creating a literary story, or acting in a drama, it is as if I am entering another world where everything is peaceful and I forget about the upsets of real life.” Diandian did not choose a major in music because he did not want to limit his artistic horizons. “I want to make sure that my career path is wide and open to many opportunities. I believe that if I have a profound cultural and literary background, then I can have an advantage over other musicians. It is my goal to break the barrier between pop, classical, Western, and Chinese music, and even between literature, dancing, drama, etc. I am on the quest for artistic wealth.” Diandian believes that all forms of art are brother and sister and that they belong in one family. “When I gather multiple art forms together as one, the energy and effect is much higher.”
Despite his wide interests, music is his true passion and this is clearly visible if you get the chance to watch him perform. Earlier this year, Diandian performed Chopin’s Heroic Polonaise at Carnegie Hall and is set to perform at Carnegie Hall for a second time this coming December. Diandian also played at Harvard University where he received wild applause and request for an encore performance.
It sounds as if success came easy to Diandian, but his journey has not been without setbacks and challenges. “There is an unforgettable point in my educational career that I regret,” confesses Diandian. “I had the chance to be admitted to Tsinghua University, one of the best universities in China, but missed getting an excellent score on my entrance exam by one point. My heart was tremendously discouraged by this. However, this event further motivated me to work hard to breakthrough my previous piano achievements. Therefore I began to learn many different Chinese instruments and keys to Chinese music composition. I think my rejection from Tsinghua was actually beneficial for me because it motivated me to challenge myself harder than I had before.”
Diandian sees Beethoven, Mozart, and Michael Jackson as some of his role models. He looks up to them not only because they are talented and hard-working, but because they have a heart of universal love. “Music taught me to use beautiful sounds to express my feelings and to make people happy and spread love to everyone and everything.” In the future, he hopes to become a versatile artist and lecturer in order to communicate all that he loves about Chinese art and culture to the world.